Section Support for CWIs

Section Support for CWIs
November 2023
IT Nov 23 - Stas Pic

Marjorie Oliver is a Senior Certified Welding Inspector (SCWI) from Bailey, Colo. She has been a continuous AWS member since 1999 and is active in the Colorado Section, where she has been secretary and chair and is now the program director. Here, she shares insights into how AWS membership and Section involvement can benefit aspiring CWIs.

Can you share your journey to becoming a SCWI?

The owners of the company I had been working for decided it was time to retire and sold the company. I had wanted to be out in the field, but that was not a popular decision for women back in the early 1980s. One of the owners of the old company took me aside and said, “This new company is not going to be a good fit for you. You need to go see this guy who runs this other company.” He was a welder, good at connecting sources, and an ironworker. I set up an interview with the company and started with them immediately. As I started doing inspection work and learning the ropes, I found out about the CWI program, and after I had been in the field for a few years, the owner of the company decided it was time for me to take the CWI exam. That’s when [former Colorado Section Chair] Neil Kirsch helped me focus my studying and gave me some pointers on the test prep. I jumped in the deep end of the pool, took the test, and managed to pass the first time through, which was rare back then, without taking any of the available preparation courses.

When it came time to do my second nine-year renewal, I was at a steel fabricator that was AISC certified, and they had a lot of government contracts. Some of those people were looking at our credentials. They said, “You’re an engineer, you’ve been in this business a good number of years, you should think about becoming an SCWI.” I decided I’ll do this instead of just renewing my CWI. By that time, I was an active member and had found out about the Section library. I borrowed the materials I could from our Section library and used all my contacts to help out with the remainder of the required study materials for the test preparation. Once again, I jumped in with both feet and managed to pass that one the first time through, too.

What got you interested in getting involved with your local Section?

One thing that stuck out was how active the Section was, especially compared to other organizations. I had people wanting me to join other engineering societies, but when it came to doing research, putting together publications, and things of that nature, they weren’t very active. They seemed more like social clubs and just strictly for networking. The way AWS Sections work with students and members in their local areas — and the fact AWS is the organization that does the research, puts the codes together, and updates them — were huge factors. The Section library and a whole network of people who could give technical assistance were a big draw. And, of course, there are the discounts on purchases and on the renewals of my certification. Another big benefit would be the online training courses for fulfilling class hours and getting necessary knowledge updates.

How does an AWS membership support CWIs?

There are other programs out there for training, and they all try to hype themselves up as being a good alternative to the AWS CWI Seminar program, but when people get done with that, they’re hanging out there in space on their own. Those programs don’t have the rest of the support to offer like AWS does. One of the things we do as Section leaders, especially [former AWS President and current Colorado Section Chair] Bob Teuscher, is visit Seminar classrooms. He typically visits each class group sometime during the week and says, “Any of you guys who are local need to come to the Section meetings. And when you get through this, you’re gonna have to worry about getting your hours for renewals, and we can help with that.” He introduces them to the idea of participation. We try to do everything we can here at the local level to push active membership.

What would you say is the best thing about being an SCWI?

The whole process of being an SCWI and then applying that and working with some of the new kids coming onboard and helping them to become qualified welders, especially the ones who get nervous. Some of them I’ve worked with hear “Senior” and they get more than a little nervous. I say, “This is a qualification. You’re just proving that you’re qualified to do what you do all day every day. It’s not scary. It’s not a test. We’re going to throw some material in front of you; just weld like you do all the time and you’ll be fine.” I think being able to work with some of the younger people and give them a positive feel for what they’re doing is one of the best things I’m able to do, along with helping them in their knowledge.

MARJORIE OLIVER ( is lead estimator and SCWI at KDM Steelworks, Loveland, Colo. She is also the program director for the AWS Colorado Section.